The Wisconsin law which will reduce the collective bargaining rights of state employees has been put on hold. Federal Judge Maryann Sumi issued a restraining order on Friday, March 18, blocking the official publication of the law.
Sumi issued the restraining order, which does not overturn the law, in response to a lawsuit by Ismael Ozanne, the district attorney of Dane County, Wisconsin. Ozanne has argued that the law was passed illegally because it was voted upon with only two hours notice, at a time when the Wisconsin Capital Building was not open to the public and when the State Senate did not have a quorum.
The law, which critics have said is anti-union, has been mired in controversy since it first reached the Wisconsin State Senate’s floor. The bill proved so polarizing that 14 Democratic State Senators fled Wisconsin to neighboring Illinois, preventing the Senate from having a needed quorum. Without a quorum, the Senate would have been unable to vote on the bill as it contained financial material. However, Senate Republicans submitted an amended version of the bill which did not contain any financial elements, thereby avoiding the need for a quorum.
The 14 Senators returned to Wisconsin after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the bill into law.
“People think that this is a picnic for us. They’re wrong. But I’ll tell you something, we did it for the right reasons. And the fight will continue. It does not end with that vote,” State Senator Dave Hansen (D), one of the Senators who fled the state, said in an interview on Saturday, March 19.
The bill has sparked furious protests and public demonstrations, some of which commentators say are the largest in Wisconsin history since the Vietnam War.
As this issue was being sent to print, it was learned that the controversial law has been published despite Sumi’s restraining order. Sumi’s order prohibited Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette from publishing the law.
However, state law requires the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every new law no later than 10 days after it is signed by the governor. Sumi did not mention the Bureau anywhere in her ruling, making the Bureau’s action legal.
Opponents of the law, however, have vowed to continue their fight.
Sources: CNN.com, Reuters.com